Her car rolls to a stop. She pumps the gas pedal in vain. Turning it off, she waits a few tense seconds. When she turns the key the engine rumbles to life with ease. Again her foot presses the gas pedal without effect. Repeating the procedure is more than an exercise in futility. The noise will draw predators.
"Shoot!" Mercy slams the palm of her hand against the steering wheel accidentally hitting the horn and scaring the hell out of herself. Predators hear the horn. They appear as if from nowhere. No single discernible race, they are the dregs of the city. The boldest taps at her window.
"Got a little car trouble?" He teases. It's obvious she's got car trouble. Even more obvious she's got a new kind of trouble. Another of the predators steps forward tapping loudly on the passenger side window.
"Hey beautiful, step outside. Maybe me an' my bros can help you out." Help. Mercy would laugh at the proposition if she wasn't so terrified of the men surrounding her immobile car. She double checks to make sure all the doors are locked. They are, for all the good they'll do…
"Thanks, I can manage." Her effort to discourage them is a waste of breath. Their laughter fills the night with cruel mirth.
The leader presses his dirty face close to the glass and grins like an animal bearing its teeth. "What's the matter sweetheart? Scared?" His saccharine tone degrades into something sour. "You should be. Get out of the car bitch."
"Go away!" Her head turns frantically first to one side and then the other. It's too dark to count them, but it doesn't matter. One of them would be too much for her…and there are a lot more than just one.
"Get outta the car now or me an' my boys start bustin' windows lady." His voice rises threateningly. The only reason they haven't already carried out the threat is because they know the sound of breaking glass will draw attention. They don't realize they have already drawn attention.
Shaking, terrified, Mercy does what she has always been told to do, what society has trained her to do. She obeys them and gets out. They're on her like a pack of rabid dogs desperate for flesh. One covers her mouth to mute her cries as he drags her into the alley. The other predators follow unaware of the man who hunts them. Rorschach.
Mercy is begging as best she can whilst muffled by her assailant. Rorschach picks off the first of the predators, covering his mouth so he can't cry out then applying a sleeper hold. Snapping his neck now would alert the others. It's too soon for that. Leaving the unconscious body he follows after the group. The one holding Mercy has dragged her to a dumpster set a fair ways back in the alley. He tosses her to his fellow predators and reaches down to unzip his pants. No more time, Rorschach thinks. He makes his presence known, walking boldly forward and kicking a steel trash can. Dented by his kick, the can flies forward hitting the shoulder of one of the predators. No harm is done, but it draws the attention of the pack to Rorschach. This is exactly what he intended. The first two to charge him are dispatched by a swift right hook and a hard throw into the brick wall making up one side of the alley. The group is intimidated, but not scared off. "Get Him!" Taking back his hold on the girl, the leader urges his pack forward.
For a moment Mercy frees her mouth. "Run! There's too many of them!" Her warning is silenced by a fist and a curse. Anger sweeps through Rorschach. She's not a whore and doesn't deserve to be treated like one. The group charges him. He grabs two of them, one in each hand, and cracks their skulls together hard enough to leave them barely conscious as he drops them to the ground. The pack halts again, wisely reluctant to draw nearer.
Rorschach's mask shifts inscrutably as he gazes back at them. "She's right. You should run." A few of them laugh, but it's a nervous forced laugh.
"What's the matter?! He's just one fucker! What're you waiting for!?" With insults and curses the leader urges them forward again. One moves ahead of the others with two close behind him. Rorschach sends him to the ground with a broken jaw. His agonized cries send his backup scampering away to return to the safety of their pack. "Get Him!" There is a hint of fear is the furious order.
The first coward speaks, hidden in anonymity by the bodies of the others. "Fuck this man! Get him yourself!" He runs. The rest are quick to follow some shouting similar sentiments. Cursing them, the lead predator drops the girl in the filth and grime of the alley and tries to run. He doesn't get far. Rorschach grabs him by a wrist twisting his arm behind his back and pinning it there as he drags him back to face Mercy. "Please lady. We was just havin' a little fun. Tell him to let me go ARGHH!"
"Shut up." Rorschach's words command immediate obedience. He turns the shifting face of his mask to Mercy. Speaking in a low gravelly voice, he states the situation. "Cops won't do anything. Nothing they charge him with will put him behind bars long. You know what he wanted. What's your judgment?" Piss trails down the defeated predator's leg and he whimpers fearfully lips forming unvoiced pleas.
Disgust fills Mercy and she forgets her own name. Her right hand flies out wide then swings forward swift as a dart to connect with his face. "Bastard! Men like you should be killed!" Beneath Rorschach's face, Walter smiles. He shares her sentiments.
"Penalty is death." Mercy has barely an instant to register her savior's words as Rorschach snaps the predator's neck dropping the twitching body to the ground. She forgets the stinging of her palm. Fixing his unseen gaze on the look of horror on Mercy's face, Rorschach speaks. "Regretting your judgment?" For a moment she stares at him, her lips barely parted then, she shakes her head slowly.
"No. He deserved worse. I just…didn't expect you to actually kill him." Her green eyes drift up from the still body to those predators unconscious on the ground or in too much pain to move. "What about them…?" It surprises her how little concern she has for them. They are human after all. She looks at them and tries to feel pity, tries to understand that horrors have driven them to become as they are.
Rorschach turns to look at them over his shoulder. Disgusted, he retorts, "What about them?"
Mercy finds herself without pity. Her posture stiffens slightly as she stands a little straighter. "They deserve the same…at the very least, they deserve the same." A part of her can barely believe the words she's speaking, but a darker part just wishes she had what it took to kill them herself.
Rorschach smiles. She watches him finish the job. Even when the last one pleads agonizingly through his broken jaw, she doesn't look away, doesn't shy from the consequences of her choice, and doesn't try to stop him. That's something Rorschach can respect. Leaving behind half a dozen bodies he walks with her back to the dead car. "Open the hood. Get back in." His curt words send Mercy swiftly forward. She pops the hood's latch before climbing back into the driver's seat. The car looks fine as far as he can determine. He shuts the hood regretting the loss of Nite Owl. He was much better with mechanical things.
Mercy steps back out speaking. "It's the gas pedal. I step on it, but it doesn't do anything." Under the street light, her skin is luminescent. Her copper hair shines.
It sounds like a simple problem, but one he can't fix. "Not going anywhere tonight. How far to your home?" Walter reminds him silently he should get back to work. Just as silently Rorschach responds that this is work. She can't be left alone on these streets. If not for the Keene act, he could have Nite Owl fly her home, but that's no longer an option.
"It's a couple blocks from here…" Long city blocks with predator filled alleys. Her eyes are begging him to guard her to the safe haven, but she won't ask in words. He has already done so much.
Thoughtfully he glances at the sky. A few hours remain until dawn. It is not yet safe to let her go alone. Even if it were broad daylight, it would not be safe for her to travel alone on foot. "I'll take you." A smile of relief and gratitude brightens her face. She's beautiful. They start walking. Silence settles between them disrupted by the rhythmic tapping of her shoes on the concrete and all the various noises that fill the city at night. This city, it never sleeps. Perhaps that is one of the reasons it is so sick.
"My name's Mercy." He doesn't reply, silently considering the irony with more than slight amusement. "You're Rorschach, aren't you?" Her voice is hesitant as though afraid she'll offend him, and she keeps her eyes on the concrete in front of her. Again he doesn't reply. "My mother used to tell me stories, when I was little. Rorschach and Nite Owl. She told me just their names would scare the monsters out of my closet." She laughs softly feeling silly. Why tell him this? Neither could answer that question with certainty. For something to fill the silence perhaps. Or possibly just an effort to show him, his work is still wanted by at least one soul.
"Hurm…" Her mother told her stories. The fact tugs at Rorschach until finally it forces him to speak. "How old?"
She glances at him, confused for a moment, then she grasps his question. "Twenty-three." Old enough to remember things before the Keene act but still young. Barely over half his age. A bitterness enters her voice as she continues. "My mother. She tells me I should forget those bedtime stories and accept things the way they are. She tells me the world is a better place now." Turning her face away she wipes furiously at her eyes refusing to let a single tear fall. Rorschach slows his pace to keep even with her but doesn't say anything. "Well, I won't ever forget, and I'll never believe the world is a better place with just The Comedian and Dr. Manhattan." She glances at him again, but he's still looking ahead as far as she can tell. "I'm sorry. Prattling on like this. It must be annoying." Silence resumes for the better part of two long city blocks.
This time, it's Rorschach who breaks the silence, or rather Walter's stomach growling in hunger. Beneath the latex he grimaces. After getting her home, he'll have to find something to eat. "Are you hungry?" Timidly she fixes her gaze on him. "I haven't got much, but you're welcome to it." Her right hand rises between them and points out a brick tenement that's seen better days but is still holding together. "That's where I'm staying. A little room on the third floor. See the cat in the window." Rorschach looks up catching a glimpse of a tail departing a window sill on the third floor. "Well, he's gone now, but that's my little roommate." They reach the building in a little under two minutes. She puts a foot on the step to the main door, but stops realizing he is no longer at her side. Turning back to face him her voice is full of warmth. "Please, will you come up? I'll fix something to eat for you. It's the least I can do." For a moment he hesitates. It's not his way to get involved with people…but Walter's stomach growls again, loud and insistent. Reluctantly Rorschach nods and follows. Her smile is radiant. He feels less reluctant as he follows her through the main door, past an empty elevator shaft, up three flights of rickety stairs, and finally to her own door. It's a numberless piece of cheap wood with peeling paint and a dingy brass knob. When it opens, the cat meows loudly in greeting. Before the door closes the bold little black and white feline is sniffing Rorschach's shoes curiously. After a few seconds it rubs affectionately against his ankles. While the cat claims new territory, Rorschach looks over the room. Mercy is in the tiny kitchen, an area delineated by a patch of tile opposing the shabby worn down carpet claiming the rest of the floor. A single mattress with a flat pillow and clean linens lies on the floor in a corner near a tall window. A heavy chest for clothing is pushed against the wall beneath the window. There is one other door in the place leading into a tiny closet of a bathroom. Some of the tiles are broken or missing, but overall it is spotlessly clean. A litter box sits beneath the chipped sink.
Mercy puts a pot of water on the stove to boil and watches out of the corner of her eye as he takes the surroundings in. "It's not much, I know."
"It's plenty." Rorschach replies. No landlady or noisy kids. It's a nice change from his normal living arrangements. A few minutes tick by. The black and white cat prowls away to stake out a hole in a corner.
"The building has roaches, but N.C. eats them so they don't come in here too often." As though to prove her words, the cat pounces on an insect as it leaves the safety of its hole.
"N.C." He asks as much out of curiosity as anything else.
Mercy's laughter is sweet, lasting not nearly long enough. "Nite Cat. My mother would never let me get an owl." For a moment Rorschach almost chuckles, almost. Humming softly, Mercy pours noodles into the boiling water and stirs them. In another pan she starts a sauce. A plain clock on the wall tracks time. Five minutes pass. Then, ten. Finally, twenty. Two bowls of fresh spaghetti covered in homemade sauce are the end result. The entire time Rorschach's been leaning against the wall next to the window alternating between watching Mercy cook and staring at the passersby in the street below. The sky outside is just beginning to hint at turning lighter. When she brings the bowl to him, he takes it gratefully. Smelling her cook the sauce had been verging on torture. Before he even opens his mouth to ask her, she turns away. Quietly, she takes her own bowl and sits on the edge of the bed facing away from him. "I won't peek. Promise." Walter believes her, but it's not Rorschach's way to take chances. Facing the corner so neither she nor any soul on the street can catch more than a glimpse of his face; he pulls the mask half way up and savors the aroma wafting up from the warm bowl for a fraction of an instant before devouring it. They eat in silence, N.C. crunching loudly as he enjoys another foolish insect.
After finishing her bowl, Mercy rinses it and leaves it in the sink for later. "I'm going to get a shower. There's more pasta on the stove if you want it…" She resists the temptation to look over her shoulder and moves to the bathroom closing the door softly. Leaving her clothes in a pile on the bathroom floor she steps under the hot running water, one of the few things that continues to work regularly in the apartment. After the shower she dries herself slowly, wondering if her guest has left. "Probably…" She whispers softly and is surprised by the surge of sadness at the thought. "No reason to stay. He's probably long gone." Blinking away a tear before it can fall, she pulls on one of her few luxuries. Wearing a pink silk bathrobe she steps out followed by a whirl of hot steamy air.
In the corner where he'd stood and eaten, Rorschach is now sitting looking asleep but for the continuous movement of his mask. Even the black of his mask moves slowly as though it is resting. Taken with curiosity, Mercy walks quietly over to kneel in front of him. He doesn't move. Breathing deeply she reaches a shaking hand toward the shifting black and white where a face should be. "This your idea of not peeking?" His voice, rough and so unexpected startles her. She pulls away swiftly. Too swiftly. She falls backwards sprawling on the floor. Her green eyes widen with awe fearful of his anger. "Is it?" He rises, towering over her.
"No, I wasn't…I just wanted to know, what it felt like…" She turns her face away from him and crawls onto her bed. He doesn't stop her from sliding under the old blanket. "I'm sorry…" When she looks back, he's crouching right next to her, startling her anew.
"No crime, being curious. Can get you hurt though." He catches hold of her wrist in a steely yet gentle grasp. Slowly, he lifts her hand closer to his face releasing his hold when her fingers are almost close enough to touch. "Do it…" Grinning with the innocence youth should always carry, but seldom does, she brushes her finger tips over his right cheek trailing a line along his jaw and back up the left side of his face. "Well…?"
"It's smooth." For a second time he catches her by the wrist. No fear taints her countenance; she looks up at him calm, patient. Trusting. With his other hand he pulls his face halfway up leaving Walter's face exposed up to the nose. Trembling too faintly for her to notice, he pulls her hand close brushes those soft clean fingertips over his unshaven jaw. He lets her hand go, and she doesn't pull back, just keeps running her fingertips over his stubble as she sits up. "Rorschach…"
"Yes?" He can feel Walter's desperation, his longing to feel close to another human. It's a powerful feeling, not easily denied even by Rorschach.
"Can I…kiss you?" Walter's heart pounds at the thought matching the quiet racing of her own. "The real you…" She trails her fingers up past the stubble to the smooth material of Rorschach's face. He pulls the edge of the mask back down. Her hand slips under his coat as she pulls herself closer until her lips press against the smooth material where a mouth lies covered by shifting black. Hot desire races through Walter's body and Rorschach wraps his arms around her half pulling her from the bed. It's happening too quickly to be stopped. Suddenly he's pulling off his gloves dropping them to the floor and running his hands over that soft pink silk sliding it aside to reveal a pale shoulder. She's softer than the silk, her skin firm beneath his rough hand. Delicate little fingers grasp his wrist not pulling his hand so much as encouraging it to move up along her neck to caress her face. She lets his hand go and he combs his fingers through her satiny copper hair.
Walter can't get enough of her softness. "Like angel of Mercy…" he whispers as she pulls away from the kiss and stares at Rorschach's face with olive green eyes.
She breaths deeply, her soft flesh pressing gently against his hard muscles. "You're an angel Rorschach. A guardian angel." With every instinct in Walter crying out to pursue her interest Rorschach holds himself back, allows himself only to touch her as gently as he can.
"You don't know what you're saying. Too young to know…too young for me." Abruptly he pulls away from her, snatching up his gloves and almost stepping on N.C. as he rises backing away from her. Something so precious...deserves better than I can offer, he thinks. "Need to leave."
In a fluid blur of movement she leaves the blanket and bed behind rising after him. "Rorschach wait." He's reaching for the door when her voice catches him in a surprisingly strong command. "Look at me." Hand on the doorknob, Rorschach tells himself not to look back, to just leave, but his neck muscles won't listen. Walter won't listen. He wants to look back. The muscles of his neck twist slowly and force his gaze back to focus on her. The bathrobe is a puddle of pink silk at her feet. A streetlamp shines through the window tracing her naked form with light and shadow. She's beautiful. Rorschach wants to disagree, wants to declare her just like all the others. Full of weaknesses and flaws, but even he is momentarily stunned. Everything about her looks untouched. Unquestionably innocent. "Please stay."
"Don't tempt me." Rorschach whispers the words in a coarse biting tone. "Don't tempt me…" Walter echoes the words, his voice weaker, still gruff but filled with desperation.
"Just tonight. Just one night." She is trembling in the light. Frightened of being alone. Walter shares her fear, but Rorschach doesn't. He is never afraid.
"A compromise?" She nods. For an instant she is hopeful. "Never compromise. Never will." Her lips part silently as hope flees her face. Rorschach turns, opens the door and closes it behind him in the time it takes Walter's heart to beat once. He listens for a moment hand on the dingy brass knob holding the door closed. She doesn't try to open it. She's crying quietly. "Not an angel." Rorschach tells Walter quietly. "Just a girl." Beautiful girl, Walter thinks. Innocent as an angel. Untouched by filth. He thanks Rorschach for that. Rorschach agrees with the sentiments as he walks down the hall. He wishes there were more like her in the world.
They both do.
A/N: Wrote this after seeing Watchmen. There is a wishful little adult version for the 18 and over crowd. If anyone's interested they need only visit AFF and search the title in the comics section.
A/N on edits: Few minor edits. Took out the line "Judgment is passed." SirenRiya had a very good point. It did sound a little too much like a catch phrase. Something the Punisher might use maybe. Kept "Penalty is death" though because what I was trying to get across was the death penalty as a judgment to kind of draw this analogy to a court brought to the level of the street where the victim is the judge and the vigilante is the executioner. I still quite like the analogy though I know it is far from perfect and probably strikes the wrong chord with a lot of people. Also, realized in re-reading my explanations, that this version didn't have the "Don't tempt me." line and went, "Oh shit. People will have no fucking clue what I'm talking about. And that was a really good line defining a bit of difference between Rorschach and Walter. Why the hell did I remove it in the first place?" Unable to answer that question I put it back in and offer a bit of supplementary explanation as to what is tempting who.
"Don't Tempt Me" explained: Obviously Walter's temptation here is an innocent young woman. Rorschach doesn't feel those kinds of things so it makes little sense for that to be his temptation. If you're bitter about my loose use of the Rorschach character you might attribute his temptation to being a desire to snap her neck for being so obscene as to reveal her body to him. However, my preferred temptation is the desire to comfort his alter ego. Rorschach, while not possessed of any lusty feelings himself, is 100% aware of Walter's desire not only for the physical side but for the psychological or emotional comfort of being close to another person. I imagine he suffered a bit severing ties with Nite Owl II when he retired quietly while Rorschach continued to work as a vigilante.
addition to A/N or A/N further explanations: Some explanation on my understanding of the Rorschach character and the ideas behind certain aspects of this fic.
1. I unlike many suethors am utterly aware of my shallow character. This fanfic piece was just a "Yay! I have a new crush!" fic, so to speak. Keep me (Me not the story folks) on alert though, I will be doing a much more in character story with Rorschach in the future.
2. I've done a good bit of research so I do have a fairly thorough understanding of the character (though it doesn't show very well in this fic). From what I've seen and read, Rorschach has a problem with "ladies of the night" to put it politely. In the motion comic (I've yet to get my hands on the actual comic) he expresses a dislike for the second Silk Specter's costume but says it's "nothing personal". To me this indicates, he doesn't have a problem with S.S. so much as a problem with her appearance, which is undeniably meant to be provocative.
In canon his contact with women of the innocent variety is limited pretty much to S.S. who is definitely not a gentle girl.
3. Rorschach/Walter identity issues. Although the character establishes his identity as Rorschach and no longer "Walter pretending to be Rorschach" after the Blair Roche case, I've taken a less extreme and much more muddled view of his mental state. The idea is that Walter pretended to be Rorschach because, as Walter he felt weak, flawed, and too much like those around him (like the people who stood by and did nothing while Kitty Genovese was murdered). Rorschach was, initially, a fantasy personality devoid of those vices Walter despised but no doubt had some small measure of himself. One cannot ignore the establishment of the very human nature of the characters including physical desires and psychological responses. In Walter's case, it is natural to have sexual desires, but because of his past he feels self disgust at admitting to this "weakness." Rorschach as his invented persona lacks this flaw. However he would not be unaware of Walter's desires in this respect since the two "personalities" are aware of each other. What I was attempting to bring across was the idea that Walter is still very much aware of who he is, but has for the most part given control of everything to Rorschach. Thus Rorschach is identified as the main personality (The "real" identity) and Walter has become the mask. In particular, I define them as two separate personalities because of a detail I noticed in the motion comic. Speech bubbles. Walter's identical to those of all the other characters, but as Rorschach there is a...erm...texture or un-evenness to the bubbles. This could be simply attributed to a difference in voice pitch or quality which I did put into the story with the "Don't tempt me" lines. But I think this difference in bubbles, which is a technique for differentiating between characters (Dr. Manhattan's bubbles are always blue and look a bit glowy.), could also be understood as indicating that Rorschach and Walter are split personalities albeit aware of each other and generally in accordance with each other's goals, ideas, ect.
4. Mercy is a Mary Sue albeit one who is developing more and more background. However, she was never really intended to be anything more than a proxy, so having her called a Mary Sue does not bother me in the slightest. Call away. I am guilty as charged. However, there was some thought behind Mercy. Obviously her name is symbolic. In one respect she shows no mercy when Rorschach asks for her judgment (He would've killed them regardless of what she said). Her cat is also obvious with intention, being black and white. In the story, Mercy states that her mother used to tell her stories about Rorschach and Nite Owl. Her cat is black and white because of her childhood fondness for Rorschach and named Nite Cat because she also liked Nite Owl. Also, she is much younger than Rorschach. As a symbol youth represents innocence, something Rorschach/Walter does not see enough of creating an element of interest, albeit a flimsy one.
5. Angel comparison: This was an effort to establish a *cough* reason *cough* for Walter to feel an attraction to a female character. In his wiki page (Yes I know wiki is not 100% reliable) it states, "During his childhood he was described as bright, and excelled in literature and religious education." Religious education caught my attention a bit. It is never (as far as I have found) suggested in the comic that he is a highly religious or devotional type of person. However, with a religious background I thought it plausible he might take an academic's approach to religion, treating it as fiction which makes excellent moral examples but is not entirely true. This is kind of like equating religious text with stories like "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Aesop's fable "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." It does not detract from the value of the text but rather places the value in a different perspective. The concept of angels or angelic qualities is the very core of the attraction I was attempting to create. So, when Walter says, "Like angel of Mercy," he is referring not to actual angels but to the idea angels represent, in particular mercy and innocence. Mercy then turns the analogy around on him calling him a "guardian angel."
5. Elements from the real world. Some little things were thrown into the story based on my own real world experiences. In the original draft Mercy's car was making a whining sound and would not start. Rorschach established that the alternator was the problem. Enter rewrite from real life. My own car a day or two before finishing this chapter had the exact same issue as what Mercy's now has. The tension cable from the gas pedal to the engine had snapped. Car turns on and off just fine. Gas pedal moves, but doesn't give any gas. After all was said and done, I thought, "Hmm...alternator or car problem from real world I've never seen anyone use before." Grinning and grimacing, I rewrote the intro. Also, the spaghetti sauce. My significant other is an awesome cook. You can smell that sauce long before the noodles are done, and when you're hungry It Is Torture!
THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO READ ALL THAT!